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Last Updated:7/18/00
Speech by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), June 30, 2000

Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I want to associate myself with the remarks of the senior Senator from Massachusetts, Senator Kennedy, who has taken a strong, personal interest in the human rights conditions in the Colombia aid portion of this bill.

Senator Kennedy and I, with the support of other Senators, both Democrats and Republicans, including some strong supporters of this Colombia aid package, wrote these conditions which passed the Senate on June 22. The Senate version, which passed overwhelmingly, did not contain the presidential waiver that was included by the conferees. There was virtually no meaningful opportunity for most Senators, especially Democrats, to participate in the Conference on the Colombia aid package, and I am disappointed that the waiver was included.

If the Administration had a history of giving the protection of human rights in Colombia the attention it deserves there would be no need for these conditions. Unfortunately, the Administration, as well as the Colombian Government, have consistently misrepresented, and overstated, the Colombian Government's efforts to punish human rights violators. This causes me great concern. There is no need for the waiver and no justification for waiving these conditions.

Senator Kennedy has described the situation in detail so I will not repeat what he has said. However, I do want to respond to a couple of the State Department's claims:

The State Department has said that `dramatic steps have been taken [by the Colombian Government] to deal with the legacy of human rights abuses.' It cites a change in Colombian law, such that `military officers responsible for human rights violations are tried in civilian courts.' That is a gross misrepresentation of what actually occurs. The Colombian Armed Forces have systematically, and successfully, sought to avoid civilian court jurisdiction of human rights crimes by many of its members.

The State Department has also said that `President Pastrana has stated repeatedly that he will not tolerate collaboration, by commission or omission, between security force members and paramilitaries.' I am sure President Pastrana, who I greatly admire, has said that. But the reality is that this collaboration has existed for years, and virtually nothing has been done about it. In fact, it is only recently, when pressed, that the Administration and the Colombian Government even acknowledged that it was going on. To date, little has been done to stop it.

This is not to say that the Colombian Government has done nothing to address the human rights problems. It has, and I want to recognize that. But that is no argument for waiving these conditions. Far more needs to be done, especially to punish those who violate human rights.

There is no doubt that the Administration believes that supporting `Plan Colombia' is in our national security interests. However, the Administration has also said, repeatedly, that promoting human rights is a key goal of `Plan Colombia .' The Colombian Government has said the same thing. If those pronouncements means anything, they mean that it is not in our national interests to provide assistance to the Colombian Armed Forces if the basic human rights conditions in this bill are not met, particularly when the Colombian Government has said these conditions are fully consistent with its own policies. This is not asking too much. These are not unreasonable conditions. To the contrary, they are the minimum that should be done to ensure that our aid does not go to forces that violate human rights. There is no reason whatsoever that the Administration cannot use the leverage of this aid package to ensure that these conditions are met, and I fully expect the Administration to do so.

As of July 18, 2000, this document was also available online at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?r106:S30JN0-436:

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